August Hedge a gram

     This is my August hedge a gram.  The time I take to let you know what is happening in my life as an illustrator.
      Time.  That's such an important factor in my drawing.   Sometimes, I'll work on a section of my book over and over until it seems right.  When I was little, I remember so clearly that I liked to see the details in things, and the colors , shapes and textures of the wildlife I saw outside in my yard.  Do you ever think to yourself,  "If I drew what I'm seeing right now, no one would believe it!"   In the book I'm working on now, Honey, Honey, Honey, I'm drawing Africa.  It's so hard to show the beauty of the place in Africa we went to, Botswana.  I think mostly the difficulty lies in the light that's reflected from all the green things.  The grasses for example, come is so many shapes and sizes.  There's golden bristle grass, and crow's foot grass and papyrus.  As the sun lowers in the sky, it catches all the seed heads and they radiate light.  The grasses flow over many miles and wave in the breezes.  It's impossible to capture their beauty, but my goal is to try and show it, hoping you will someday see this beautiful place with zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests walking through it.
     The page I'm working on at the moment has warthogs in it.  If you have never been to Africa, you may think this is a comical animal because it's so ugly and has "wart" in its name.  If real life though, they are everyone's favorite.  You see them in family groups, kneeling down to eat grasses and roots.  If they're alarmed, they trot off with their long skinny tails straight up in the air. The guides say that's, "the bush Internet".   Sometimes, when you're driving in the grasslands of Africa, they go a little ahead of the truck and you watch them for a long time.  They often make their burrows under termite mounds, but that doesn't always offer them protection from lions, who are so fast and try to catch them when they're foraging.
     Drawing my book about Africa makes my blood boil to go back.  It is like being reborn in a parallel universe, because all the birds, plants and animals are brand new.  I feel like I've only scratched the surface in recognizing the natural environment of Africa.  I was lucky to have a very wise guide in Botswana named Ali Tiego.  He told me the honeyguide bird legend and lots of interesting facts and curiosities.  For example, I wanted to see a python, a very pretty snake that squeezes its prey to death.  That's how it eats.  All day Ali listened to the birds singing until he heard several different birds that were upset and mad.  We went to a clump trees like a little island, in a sea of grasses.  He spotted the python several feet away, wrapped around the branches coming up from the ground.  Now here's the amazing thing.  It took my husband and I about 15 minutes to spot it, even thought Ali was pointing at it.  That snake really blended into its surroundings.
     I hope this August, when you see a scene that is remarkable, you'll try and describe it in a drawing.  When you draw something you have to really analyze it and you learn something new.  Observation often will take you on a mysterious trip as one question leads you to another, and best of all, an answer.  Seeing that snake interacting with those birds gave me many new realizations - the first one being, listen to the birds, their eyes and ears can tell you where a python lies!  Now, back in New England I'll hear a ruckus from our birds and often I'll see a hawk or I'll be aware of an animal that's hidden in the foliage.
     Good luck with your own drawings.  Kids, I envy your creativity!  Bye for now.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett


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